Communist authorities arrested a preacher from the heavily-persecuted house church in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, Early Rain Covenant Church, for “allegedly disturbing public order” by officiating a member’s funeral.
Preacher Wu Wuqing was arrested by officers from Damian Police Station in Chengdu city’s Longquanyi District on Friday afternoon, hours after the funeral service, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported, saying it learned about the arrest from ERCC’s prayer request.
Wu, who's also been persecuted in the past, was released late in the evening.
Authorities have shut down utilities at his home many times, and Chengdu police have threatened that if he continues to serve at ERCC, they will intensify their crackdown and monitoring of his movements, ICC said.
Over two years ago, authorities shuttered the 5,000-member church, broke down the doors of church members’ and leaders’ homes, and arrested more than 100 people. Police continue to harass and track ERCC members today, according to a recent report from the U.S.-based group China Aid.
“House churches across China are seeing an increased harassment from church raid, crackdown on their activities, to the detention of their leaders,” Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said. “Beijing seeks to intimidate the leaders in hopes that the churches will dissolve due to fear. Their plot will not succeed, thanks to the resiliency of the Chinese house church. They survived the Cultural Revolution, and they will survive Xi’s era as well.”
In April, authorities harassed and criminalized house church leaders across China, including elder Zhang Chunlei from Guiyang Ren’ai Reformed Church, preacher Zhang Peihong at Shanghai Lancun Zhongyue Church, and preachers Qie Jiafu and Huang Chunzi at Beijing’s Zion Church. All of them fell victim to the latest clampdown.
Last month, several members of the ERCC were also arrested by the Public Security Bureau for participating in an online Easter worship service on Zoom and ordered to cease all religious activity.
A Christian, who did not reveal her name, told China Aid that over the last weekend, police brought in ERCC members in charge of church activities and online services and demanded that they stop all activities.
A supporter of ERCC shared on Twitter: “Since 8:30 a.m., some security officials have entered these Christian families’ homes and pretended to be chatting with them casually. At 9:30 a.m., the worship began, and they were also invited to participate. Once they realized that the sermon was from ERCC’s imprisoned pastor Wang Yi, they immediately shut it down.”
ERCC, led by pastor Wang Yi, has not been able to gather in person since it was shut down in 2018, and its pastor and other leaders were arrested. Pastor Wang was later sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of subversion of power and illegal business operations.
Authorities in China are also continuing their crackdown on Christianity by removing Bible Apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect last week.
Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness said in a tweet that some Christian WeChat accounts, including “Gospel League” and “Life Quarterly,” were no longer available online, ICC reported at the time.
Last month, Asia News reported that Chinese authorities punished a man who provided a worship venue for believers, fining him $30,000 under the charge of hosting “illegal religious activities.”
According to recently-released reports, religious persecution in China intensified in 2020, with thousands of Christians affected by church closures and other human rights abuses.
Under the direction of President Xi Jinping, CCP officials are enforcing strict controls on religion, according to a report released in March by China Aid.
Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranks China as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political or invite foreign guests.
In addition to Early Rain Covenant Church, the Chinese Communist Party has shuttered a number of well-known churches, including Rongguili Church in Guangzhou and Xunsiding Church in Xiamen.
The U.S. State Department has also labeled China as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”